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Ecological Sanitation: save the precious water

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Our world now faces a huge water crisis. I'm sharing here some work that helps especially poor and isolated peoples to maintain sanitation while conserving limited potable water. He is promoting Ecological Sanitation EcoSan.

You can find on his blog info about other useful EcoSan methods. Many of these he has designed himself, including simple and cheap systems to capture rainwater and dispense in hand washing stations.

I will post the link for the full article excerpted below. He has another article posted at that link.

Author: Christopher Canaday Affiliation and email: Omaere Ethnobotanical Park, Ecuador, canaday2@gmail.com, www.inodoroseco.blogspot.com

Abstract

Three different models of simple and inexpensive Urine-diverting Dry Toilets (UDDTs) are described: a portable one for squatting made from a barrel, another portable one made from wood and linoleum, and a permanent one for squatting made with palm wood. A simple, portable urinal made from two plastic bottles is also described. These can be made at very low cost, with abundant natural materials, salvaged post-consumer waste, and items that are readily purchased almost anywhere. They may be especially applicable in poor communities, slums, farms, disaster relief camps, and temporary events, plus they may be used to train and screen users before building more elegant UDDTs. With these designs, conversion to UDDTs may be more a matter of paradigm shift than capital investment.

· Urine may be diverted with standard plastic funnels or with ones cut from plastic bottles. · Urine may be stored in bottles for later use as fertilizer or it can be dispersed immediately via perforated hoses (at least in the Amazon) · Feces may be collected in sacks or buckets.

Diseases transmitted via feces, including diarrhea, hepatitis, typhoid, and intestinal worms, constitute one of the biggest threats to human health (Conant and Fadem 2008). Especially vulnerable are the people who live in large agglomerations under unsanitary conditions. In Developing Countries, most wastewater goes straight into the environment without treatment and many people do not even have access to the piped water needed to make such wastewater, so the fecal contamination of their environment is even more direct. Globally, an estimated 40% of people live without basic sanitation (UN-Habitat, 2003).

Urine-diverting Dry Toilets (UDDTs) have much to contribute in improving this situation, especially if they are: ü Very low in cost; ü Easily made from abundantly available (often recycled) materials; and ü (in some cases) Portable.

The UDDT is one technique of Ecological Sanitation (EcoSan), a practice in which excrement can be used as a resource for improving the soil, while applying natural processes to control the potential transmission of diseases (Winblad et al. 2004, Esrey et al. 1998). One of the least logical aspects of modern life is that of taking and purifying huge amounts of water, defecating in a large proportion of it, spending great sums of money to then try to purify it again, but never returning the nutrients to farmland, thus depending more and more on chemical fertilizers that are made and transported with non-renewable fossil fuels. To make things worse, pathogens develop resistance to the chemicals used to treat sewage and substances like antibiotics and artificial hormones cannot reliably be removed or degraded. These are the results of an irrational fear of our own excrement that leads us to do irrational things with it. In contrast, EcoSan is a way to control the real risks involved, and make our excrement safe to be added to the soil. In the case of water, everyone wants it clean, so it is best to simply not contaminate it with excrement.

The goal of this paper is to show that conversion to using UDDTs can be more a matter of shifting paradigms than capital investment. People can learn the concept and apply it on their own, with materials that they already have access to.

Comments

bearded_gnome 4 years, 1 month ago

As I wrote on the "coming attraction" blog announcing that this was coming, I don't agree with all of this guy's ideas. but I see that this is a great response to a very serious problem.

bearded_gnome 4 years, 1 month ago

Link to online pdf issue containing full article excerpted above, plus another article by this guy: http://www.ecosan.at/ssp/issue-06-toilets/issue-06-toilets

bearded_gnome 4 years, 1 month ago

In this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RJ0KDb...

he demonstrates and explains two of these dry toilets.

bearded_gnome 4 years, 1 month ago

I believe that some of these methods might be useful in isolated places in the U.S. where water is quite scarce.

I post this here hoping that some folks in the Lawrence/Haskell/KU community would be interested and put this to use.

bearded_gnome 4 years, 1 month ago

In contrast, EcoSan is a way to control the real risks involved, and make our excrement safe to be added to the soil. In the case of water, everyone wants it clean, so it is best to simply not contaminate it with excrement.

---well written summary of this method's value.

bliddel 4 years, 1 month ago

Amen to the irrational fear of our own excrement . Knowing it's irrational fear doesn't help much.

But yes, when our currency collapses, it will be more important than ever to not deplete the agricultural lands of elements present in feces.

While Lawrence water is outrageously expensive due to high sewer costs, we have plenty of water here. So, I doubt there will be much of a local market. Besides, the city commission would have a cow.

Ken Lassman 4 years, 1 month ago

Beard, You might see if your friend has ever heard of Joseph Jenkins' fine book and research, called the Humanure Book--it's a free download at http://www.humanurehandbook.com/ but it's worth owning a hard copy so you can share it.

It's also very low tech but also provides excellent information on how to safely transform the urine and excrement into completely safe and sanitary compost--he's really done his homework.

I actually know folks in Jefferson County who do this kind of safe, waterless, composting toilets and they've never had any problem whatsoever with either smells or sanitary product. Jenkins seems to have solved the problems and aversive nature of dry toilets, and I think it's being widely adopted around the world. Seems like your buddy might be able to apply many of the Humanure solutions to his efforts.

bearded_gnome 4 years, 1 month ago

Bliddel: Amen to the irrational fear of our own excrement . Knowing it's irrational fear doesn't help much.

But yes, when our currency collapses, it will be more important than ever to not deplete the agricultural lands of elements present in feces.

While Lawrence water is outrageously expensive due to high sewer costs, we have plenty of water here. So, I doubt there will be much of a local market. Besides, the city commission would have a cow.

---LOLZ! yes, you can't even have chickens inside the city now! however I was thinking more of interest in this by people who work with populations in scarce water places.

and indeed, if currency collapses, america's actual production value for exchange and survival will lean heavily on ag.

bearded_gnome 4 years, 1 month ago

irrational fear of our own excrement.

well, some fear is healthy, note Haiti's population's health problem right now.

the writer makes a valid point that we are spendig a lot of effort to dispose of biosolid.

one former poster who finally got himself kicked off used to say: "behold the power of poop."

bearded_gnome 4 years, 1 month ago

Dougcounty: DougCounty (anonymous) says…

Beard, You might see if your friend has ever heard of Joseph Jenkins' fine book and research, called the Humanure Book--it's a free download at http://www.humanurehandbook.com/ but it's worth owning a hard copy so you can share it.

It's also very low tech but also provides excellent information on how to safely transform the urine and excrement into completely safe and sanitary compost--he's really done his homework.

I actually know folks in Jefferson County who do this kind of safe, waterless, composting toilets and they've never had any problem whatsoever with either smells or sanitary product. Jenkins seems to have solved the problems and aversive nature of dry toilets, and I think it's being widely adopted around the world. Seems like your buddy might be able to apply many of the Humanure solutions to his efforts.

---interesting. DC, please answer this question: why are they doing this in Jefferson county?
is it for a water shortage in a particular place? ecological concern?
or is it an experiment in process?

I am very curious why they're doing this.

thanks for the book ref, I'm getting it to him in seconds. I was hoping he would come up here on this blog himself.

bearded_gnome 4 years, 1 month ago

Dougcounty, apparently the 'low tech' low cost low impact nature of this stuff is what makes it so powerful for poor/isolated populations.

chriscanaday 4 years, 1 month ago

Hi,

The is Chris Canaday, the author of piece BG posted. I dont know how you found it, but thanks for spreading the word.

Joe Jenkins' system is very simple. Urine and feces go into a bucket and get covered with sawdust, then are added to a compost pile. This is great for those who use it, but is unlikely to go mainstream for several reasons: -- You need access to a lot of sawdust. -- You have to have room for a compost pile. -- You have to be willing to carry the bucket to the compost pile every few days to empty it.

The main difference between my system and his is that I keep the urine separate. In this way the pile produces less smell and the nitrogen-rich urine can be used as fertilizer more efficiently, avoiding losses to evaporation of ammonium during long detention times. Urine dispersed on the soil transmits no diseases. There are a few wierd tropical diseases transmitted via urine, but, for example, the urine has to go into freshwater where certain snails live (schistosomiasis).

In our interactions with the natural world, we need to think about recycling of everything, including our excrement. One of the key tips for recycling is source separation of different materials, so that is what we do by keeping the urine separate from the feces, and the excrement separate from the water.

Ask your water people how much of your big price tag on water is due to the difficulty of getting nitrogen back out of the water.

Our excrement has just what plants need to make our food again ... and just what we do not want in our drinking water.

Wheat is big in Kansas. This is the main crop the Swedes fertilize with the urine stored in underground tanks at apartment complexes that have EcoSan. And it has greatly lower levels of heavy metals, etc., as compared to the fertilizers used currently in Kansas.

I am glad to see the discussion. Feel free to send me any questions you like.

Best wishes, Chris

Ken Lassman 4 years, 1 month ago

Beard, Chris,

The reason the folks I know who do this in Jeff County do the Humanure approach is for the same ethical reasons you are involved in your project, Chris--it just makes sense. Also, outhouses are not illegal in Jeff County, at least not yet. I think that they are in Douglas County, although the 'ol portapotty is obviously legal. The main difference between the porta potty and your/Jenkins' toilets is the outcome: porta potty content needs to be disposed of in a sewage treatment center, while yours/Humanure is processed into fertilizer.

If you read Jenkins' book, you'll see that he's done the homework to show if adequate carbon sources (sawdust, cottonseed shells, etc.) are added to the pee and poop, you have absolutely no problem with urine or feces odor and the mix heats up to temperatures that are high enough to kill any pathogen or parasite. It's really quite elegant.

To me where this technology would be very useful is in a disaster relocation camp, even here in the US, and certainly places like haiti, where cholera has gripped the countryside. Thanks for your work, and I hope you have the time to look over the Humanure Book at your leisure, Chris. I'd be interested in hearing what you think after you've read it through.

bearded_gnome 4 years, 1 month ago

Chris, thanks for coming up here. after we talked, I wanted to share this because I know in this community are people who care about populations like those whom you've already been serving.

your system uses other materials besides sawdust like rice huls or ash.
and would you talk about those hand washing stations you designed and implemented, too? they're a pretty cool solution.

bearded_gnome 4 years, 1 month ago

Dougcounty: thanks for your answer. I do think the ol' privvy has been outlawed in Lawrence. has it been outlawed in douglas county?

bearded_gnome 4 years, 1 month ago

in 1990 I lived in a home on Penn street and the neighbor still had an old privvy in back next to the alley! lol.

chriscanaday 4 years, 1 month ago

I have read the Humanure Handbook in full detail. His system is very good and effective, but has the problems to going mainstream that I mentioned before.

I big step will be when we engineer a system where the user steps on a pedal and the feces get swallowed into the apparatus and get mixed with dry material. In other words, as similar as possible to the flush toilet, but without the water. Any engineers out there who want to contribute to this ... maybe as part of a thesis at KU??

Ken Lassman 4 years, 1 month ago

Seems like what you are saying is that the issue is transporting the buckets, not mixing the dry material. My limited experience with the Jenkins Humaure composting toilets (a couple of weeks) is that putting in enough dry material takes care of both the immediate odor issues and the long term mixing of carbon for good composting--all you need is a bucket of sawdust next to the toilet. That saves considerable mechanical complexity if you don't have to mix.

But hauling the bucket to the compost pile--that's the trick. Don't know of any way around that, any more than hauling ashes if you have a wood stove--just comes with the territory. A two sided compost pile doesn't take up much room at all, though, and ideally shouldn't be all that far away from the toilet. Maybe if you put a couple suitcase wheels and handle on the bucket, you could roll it out like a suitcase so you don't have to pick it up? There's my engineering solution--go for it!

bearded_gnome 4 years, 1 month ago

I big step will be when we engineer a system where the user steps on a pedal and the feces get swallowed into the apparatus and get mixed with dry material. In other words, as similar as possible to the flush toilet, but without the water. Any engineers out there who want to contribute to this ... maybe as part of a thesis at KU??

---Engineering is big at KU.
not being an engineer myself, I do not know what branch of engineering would be involved in this.

anyway chris, I hope you will post on here about the tippy-tap thingys that are your handwashing stations.

bearded_gnome 4 years, 1 month ago

the user steps on a pedal and the feces get swallowed into the apparatus and get mixed with dry material.

---Chris have you done any experiments with such a system yet?

the issue is transmitting the user's weight or energy/motion into two elements of your toilet process, removal and mixing?

then you have to design the system to be durable or easily repaired and constructable from easily accessed materials.
"pedal" makes one think of bicycle but you're probably more in the area of a lever or a weight bar?

bearded_gnome 4 years, 1 month ago

Thanks Agnostic.
if I were emperor of america I would have ordered a "Manhattan Project" for water already. significant populations have water sources contaminated by natural poisons across the west, especially Arsenic.

if the need for water were simply totally met across africa, massive numbers of lives would be saved, famine could be dramatically cut, and sanitation would increase exponentially.

bearded_gnome 4 years, 1 month ago

In an E-mail, Chris says he is now in Argentina, working on a major water filtration project. he says he is in a region that often sees 50C temperatures, too.

DougCounty, I think he will answer you when he can.

bearded_gnome 4 years, 1 month ago

and ... [slaps forehead] that type of engineering mentioned above would be:

Mechanical Engineering
ta-dah!

that would work on such a design solution as Chris is mentioning.

[insert Homer simpson sound effect]

bearded_gnome 4 years, 1 month ago

just looked at the article Agnostick posted. documents the problem pretty well but makes gratuitous "climate change" ref while admitting that the real issue is that the same amount of water is on the earth, simply not distributed where needed most.

in such a "Manhattan Project" of water I would order two areas of research to start: make more water much much cheaper than is currently possible from nonpotable water sources; and figure out how to get water to dry places much cheaper.

if hydrogen as a power source succeeds, one byproduct of it is simple distilled water, a welcome product.

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